In recent years there’s been an increased amount of conversation regarding the NBA’s rules for draft entrants, with the requirements since the 2006 NBA Draft being that a player be at least 19 years of age (during the calendar year of the particular draft that they’ve entered) and stateside players also be one year removed from high school.
On Tuesday, both NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts discussed the age limit during their respective press conferences. And by the sound of things, the league appears to still be headed in the direction of lowering the minimum age to 18. While neither provided a date as to when the change could go into effect, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post the minimum age to enter the draft could be lowered in time for the 2021 NBA Draft.
The 2021 timeframe doesn’t come as a surprise, as it’s been mentioned during multiple conversations regarding the NBA Draft age limit. The NBA has steadily made progress towards each team having its own NBA G-League affiliate, and it will be interesting to see if that comes to fruition by the year 2021.
Having a G-League affiliate allows NBA teams to use those franchise to help young players get the on-court reps they need to get used to the parent club’s system, especially if they aren’t getting many minutes in the NBA. And a “one-to-one” relationship would be key for the league if it’s to lower its minimum age requirement in the future.
As for how this impacts college basketball, while some have stated that the “one and done” era has hurt the sport, an argument can be made that it’s been more beneficial than harmful.
There are a number of elite players who during the current era would have never set foot on a college campus if there were no age limit. That season on campus also gives NBA teams the opportunity to further evaluate those talents before they become draft-eligible players. And from an academic standpoint, programs that land “one and done” talent consistently meet — or exceed — the NCAA’s requirements when it comes to Academic Progress Rate, whether or not one thinks that the APR is a sham.
It’s becoming more clear that the NBA is ready to make a change, and based upon Roberts’ quote a move could be announced in the very near future. While college coaches won’t have an impact on the final decision, they will have to be prepared for the trickle-down effect that’s likely to occur on the recruiting trail as a result of elite prospects not having to wait to enter the NBA draft.
In his first months at the helm as NBA commissioner, Adam Silver stated on multiple occasions that he would like to see the NBA increase its age limit to 20 years old and require that American early entries be at least two years removed from high school before having the ability to play in the NBA. The National Basketball Players Association doesn’t have the same opinion on this topic, with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts stating last month that the NBA should be happy with its current “one and done” system.
On Thursday, NBPA general counsel Gary Kohlman not only noted that the union won’t have the same view of this topic when the two sides negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement but also had some strong words in regards to the current situation according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.
It’s safe to say that Kohlman isn’t a fan of players having to wait a year before being eligible for the NBA Draft.
“If they were white and hockey players they would be out there playing. If they were white and baseball players they would be out there playing,” Kohlman said. “Because most of them are actually African-American and are in a sport and precluded from doing it, they have to go into this absurd world of playing (college basketball) for one year.
“That’s just total complete hypocrisy.”
Kohlman made the remarks while appearing on a panel about college athletics at a sports law conference sponsored by the firm Cozen O’Connor.
Many would counter Kohlman’s argument by stating that the limits in hockey and baseball are those negotiated by their respective owners and players’ unions. The NFL still has its rule that requires entrants to be three years removed from high school, and like the NBA the majority of its players are African-American.
During the last round of collective bargaining in 2011 the NBPA pushed for the age limit to be lowered to 18 years old, which would allow young players to enter the draft directly out of high school. Whether or not there’s a change in either direction depends upon how much of a priority the age limit is when the current CBA expires in 2017.
But regardless of what happens in 2017, the NCAA remains in a position where they can only react to what the NBA and its players union decides to do. So while some of the powers that be discuss the possibility of having freshmen in men’s basketball and football sit out to focus on their academics, to make a move (in basketball at least) would be a risky decision without knowing what the NBA will do.
With the shift in leadership from David Stern to Adam Silver, the NBA has begun a new era with Silver taking over as commissioner. Last week it was discussed that one area in which Silver would like to make changes is the NBA’s age limit, which would be raised from 19 to 20 years old if Silver gets his way.
In an interview conducted by Sam Amick of USA Today, Silver reiterated his desire to increase the NBA’s age limit while also wonder why the players would be opposed to such a change. Below is the portion of Silver’s response that focuses on how such a change would impact not only the NBA but college basketball as well.
“Let me just throw in that at the same time, I think maybe, just to broaden my horizons a little bit, I’m trying to look at it not just from the perspective of the NBA because I believe strong college basketball is also beneficial to the NBA and to the game generally. So even if it’s not terrible for the NBA right now, at least talking to a lot of my college coaching friends and college (athletic director) friends, their view is (that) one and done is a disaster. I think this is one of these issues that the larger basketball community needs to come together and address, not just the NBA owners and our players. Youth basketball and college basketball should have a seat at the table as well.”
The fact that Silver is not only listening to those involved with college basketball but also of the belief that youth basketball should have some say in all of this bodes well for the college game. How much of a say? Not much in all likelihood, with conversation being the most college coaches and administrators can do since they have no impact on the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.
But there remains the question of just how important this is to the NBPA. Is this issue something they’re willing to fight over when negotiating the next collective bargaining agreement, with the goal being to keep the age limit as is? Or would it be a concession they’re willing to make in exchange for a better deal in other areas?
As it’s been stated many times, college basketball would benefit from the NBA raising its age limit. While some may point to the “player development” aspect, and that is important, such a move would be incredibly beneficial to the business of college basketball as well.
Another year of college basketball for some of the game’s biggest stars means that casual fans, who show up right around the time that the NFL finishes its season, would have more familiarity with the teams and players. And as much as us “diehards” may not like it, those are the fans who boost the TV ratings in March. So for all the conversation of what a move could do for the skill level of players, keep in mind that this is a business decision as well.
The current “one and done” rule is one that has received a high amount of attention in recent years, especially during this season given the number of high-level freshmen on the scene. That rule is a product of negotiations between the NBA’s owner and its players association, with the 2004 NBA Draft being the last one in which players could go directly from high school to the professional ranks.
Every few years when the league’s collective bargaining agreement would need to be renegotiated the rule would seemingly fall by the wayside, with the owners and players eventually moving on to topics that were deemed more important than the possibility of making young players wait longer (or not at all) to have a shot at the NBA.
That could change in the near future, with David Stern retiring as NBA commissioner last week and being replaced by his long-time right hand man in Adam Silver. According to NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper, one of Silver’s biggest goals is the raise the NBA’s age limit to 20 and require that a player’s high school graduating class be two years removed before being eligible to enter the NBA.
At present time, and this would likely be the case even if the age limit were raised to 20, players don’t have to attend college during their one year “wait.” There’s the D-League and overseas leagues, although the number of players who have taken advantage of these options has been low. For some this is because college basketball is seen as the “best” place for players to develop, but there are certainly people who don’t agree with that.
Will a rule change benefit college basketball? Yes. Who wouldn’t want to know that they’d be able to watch a player like Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins for two years (and to be clear, we don’t know for a fact that they won’t be back in school next year despite the assumptions)? But there are also other variables at play, the biggest of which likely being if the NBA decides at some point to use the D-League as a true minor league “system” for it’s professional franchises.
At present time 14 NBA teams have a direct relationship with a D-League franchise, with the D-League having a total of 17 teams. Is the D-League in position to expand, thereby allowing all 30 NBA teams to have its own franchise to develop young players in? The answer to that question could impact how beneficial an age limit change would be to college basketball as well.
Clearly there are many variables to be discussed when commissioner Silver meets with the newly elected powers that be of the NBPA. All college basketball can do is sit back and wait, with many hoping that the NBA will add a year to its age limit.
h/t The Sporting News